Alumnus transforms failures into career success

Brian Gewirtz

Alumnus Brian Gewirtz ’95 dreamed of attending  the Newhouse School, but little did he know this one goal would open up doors for the rest of his life. 

“For me, Newhouse was the dream, it was the pinnacle,” he says. “It was really the only place I wanted to go.”

After graduating from Newhouse’s television, radio and film program, Gewirtz moved to Los Angeles and jumped into a staff writer position for “Jenny,” a sitcom that was canceled in January 1998 after only 10 of the intended 17 episodes aired. In the midst of looking for a new job, Gewirtz met an MTV employee, submitted samples of his writing and ultimately got a job writing for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). In an industry of outrageous costumes, characters and performances, Gewirtz met some of the most influential people in his career, including actor and former superstar wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

“I got hired by MTV and in the course of that I met Nick Foley, Triple H and most essentially, The Rock, who liked the stuff that I had written for him and recommended me for a writing position at WWE,” he says. 

Gewirtz always enjoyed wrestling, watching WWE since he was 11 years old. Working for shows that entertained him as a child was exciting, but much different than he ever imagined. Though his “surreal” job as head writer was filled with WWE celebrities, Gewirtz says he was never starstruck, refusing to let his admiration overcome the work that needed to be done. 

The Newhouse alumnus decided to document his industry experiences, and formulated his writings into an idea for a television show. He pitched it to Fox, but the pilot wasn’t picked up.

“Some pilots go, and some pilots don’t, and this one didn’t. And in a way I’m glad it didn’t, ” Gewirtz says. 

Dwayne Johnson and Brian Gewirtz

Gewirtz took that rejection and transformed his writings into a book. “There’s Just One Problem…: True Tales from the Former, One-Time, 7th Most Powerful Person in WWE,” describes the chaotic and dreamlike atmosphere behind the scenes of WWE. In the book, Gewirtz details screaming matches with former chairman and WWE CEO Vince McMahon, appearing in “wrestler’s court,” his professional relationship with Johnson and more.

“I wanted to take ownership of my stories and my experience,” Gewirtz says.

After all the jobs he’s held in the entertainment industry, he notes that becoming an author feels like his most distinguished role. 

“I do have to say once you put something on paper it’s the clearest expression of your voice,” Gewirtz says. “The book was extremely rewarding and fun to do because at the end of the day it lives or dies based on what’s coming out of your head while you are writing.”

After 16 years in the WWE, Gewirtz decided it was time to move on. He’s now an executive producer for television shows “Tales from the Territories” and “Young Rock,” again working with Johnson. About a year ago, Gewirtz and Johnson wrote an episode for the series—which chronicles the former wrestler’s younger years—about Johnson’s first ever match in WWE. The episode allowed Gewirtz to re-experience the joy of screenwriting, something he had not done since early in his career.

Gewirtz’s time at the Newhouse School set him on a path for success, though it wasn’t immediate. At Seven Bucks Productions—a production company he’s been with since 2012—he even works with many alumni, and says that discussing Newhouse’s programs and Syracuse University is always a great icebreaker. 

Now, in the midst of a booming career fraught with early failures and disappointment, Gewirtz offers a piece of advice.

“Don’t be afraid of failure, because there is a lot of rejection, and don’t be afraid to put in the work– because you need to.”

Alix Berman is a first-year student in the magazine, news and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.